On Tuesday, Mar. 31, Wittenberg held elections for Student Senate and the class cabinets. While appointed senators such as the AIA and CBS senators are yet to be appointed, the new executive body contains a relatively balanced amount of new and returning senators, with five of the 12 elected positions containing students new to the organization.
This large continuity of senators between academic years is unusual, noted reelected Student Senate President Zach Lough, ’17. He hopes that this will provide Senate the ability to focus on long-term goals, including increased transparency and support for engaged learning initiatives.
“This year, we became a lot more active than we used to be which caused . . . disconnect,” Lough said. “My goal is to educate the student body on the purpose of the student government and the resources that we have. It’s really important that we are being clear what we can do for students.”
The senators new to the organization next year include Senate Secretary Maddy Straughn, ’16; 2016 Class President Kayla Villegas; Fraternity/Sorority Senator Katie Paolacci, ’16; Student Organization Senator Cylie Hodge, ’18; and Interfaith Senator Heath Queen, ’18.
“I’m excited that I’m going to be a part of making some changes to make Wittenberg a better place,” Paolacci said. “I love it here, so the fact that I’m getting the opportunity to make people love it more is awesome.”
Although Senate hosted a meet-and-greet earlier in the semester to boost student interest in running for student government, only the Interfaith Senator campaign ran with more than one listed candidate. Lough notes that while the event attracted several interested individuals, these were not the students who ended up running for positions last month.
In addition, there were less than 200 votes for each of the senators in the election this year. In addition to appointed senators, there are specific offices such as the Fraternity/Sorority Life Senator and the Off-Campus Senator that can only be voted on by individuals to whom those positions would be applicable. However, less than 11 percent of the student body voted for the Interfaith Senator, the only senate position that was open to voting for all campus with more than one candidate.
“In the future, I think it’s important that we are going to advertise that [elections],” Lough said. “We do allocate a good amount of money, we do decide a good amount of things, but voter turnout is low. It’s going to really ride on PR this year to make sure that we do that.”
While elections do only take place on one day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on MyWitt and at the W Tables, the idea behind this setup is that this is Wittenberg’s “Election Day.” Lough also noted that Student Senate’s election codes prohibit campaigning on the actual day of elections. This year, Senate organized a new ballot in which students could vote for senators and class cabinet representatives on the same form through MyWitt, a change hoping to simplify the voting process. However, Lough stated that increasing voter turnout will be important for him in upcoming years and that he is open to new ideas.
“I want to make sure people feel like they have opportunities to create, explore and grow in groups and organizations relating to faith,” Queen said. “I…am so happy to have been chosen.”
In the upcoming year, Senate will look to grow various projects, including the Center for Engaged Learning project and an effort to renovate the residence hall lounges. The new senators were transitioned on Apr. 14.